URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA: UPWARD FACING DOG

Before attempting upward facing dog, please warm up your body with cat/cow stretches and cobra pose. Doing this pose without warming up first can cause lower back discomfort.

BENEFITS OF UPWARD FACING DOG:

  • opens the chest and shoulders

  • builds upper body strength

  • improves spinal flexibility

  • energizing

  • benefits the heart chakra and sacral chakra

YOU CAN FIND THIS POSE IN THIS YOGA CLASS.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Lying on your belly, press the tops of the feet and all ten toes into the yoga mat. The feet can be together or hip distance apart. Engage the legs and lift the knee caps off the floor. Bring the hands below the shoulders. Fan the fingertips wide and firmly press all the knuckles into the yoga mat. Begin to open your heart, lifting the chest off the mat, squeezing the shoulder blades together. Press into the palms of the hands, straighten the arms and lift the hips up off the mat. Lengthen the tailbone away from crown of head and keep the core engaged. Feel the pelvis moving forward in space. These core actions will protect your low back. Keep the shoulders are away from the ears and broaden through the collarbones. Dip your chin to keep the back of the neck long, and gaze straight ahead. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths. A good counterpose to practice after this one is child’s pose.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • engage the legs

  • engage the core and lengthen the tailbone

  • sensation of the pelvis moving forward in space

  • keep a microbend in the elbows and fan the fingers

  • press firmly into all the knuckles

  • dip your chin to create length in back of neck

  • gaze straight ahead

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ADDING PROPS: YOGA BLOCKS

Adding yoga blocks under the hands will give you a bit more height here so that it might be easier to lift the hips off the mat. Be extra mindful to keep your core strong so that your low back doesn’t sag too far and cause pinching.

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ADDING PROPS: YOGA BOLSTER

This variation is my current favorite! If you’re new to updog, I’d recommend starting here. It helps you to build strength while keeping the body supported. With the bolster underneath the pelvis, you can focus on engaging your core and really feeling the pelvis moving forward in space. So important for us to keep our low back safe in these backbends.

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CHAIR VARIATION

This is a great option if getting down to the floor isn’t possible for you right now. However, this variation is still just as challenging for the upper body!

ALTERNATE POSE: COBRA POSE

This pose is a great alternative if putting a lot of weight on your hands doesn’t feel good. Cobra pose still builds lots of strength in the body and opens the chest and shoulders.

ALTERNATE POSE: FISH POSE

If you’re looking for a deep back bend but you don’t want to lie on your belly or put weight into your hands, try one of these fish pose variations. Fish pose can be practiced passively when you add props, so you get all the benefits of opening the heart without any effort.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

UTTHITA TADASANA: STAR POSE

Anytime I’m feeling low, disempowered, ungrounded, I find my power again in this pose. Standing with the feet firmly planted, muscles engaged, taking up space. The way we position our bodies affects us energetically, and I love that yoga gives us the tools we need to take conscious control of our own embodiment.

BENEFITS OF STAR POSE:

  • strengthens the whole body

  • grounding

  • energizing

  • relieves fatigue

  • empowering - boosts confidence

  • improves posture

  • improves circulation

  • increases breathing capacity (more prana = more energy)

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Start in Tadasana. From here, step the feet wide, about three feet apart. Press down evenly into all four corners of the feet and lift up through the arches. Engage the quads and inner thighs, keeping a microbend in the knees. Lengthen the tailbone and scoop the low abs in and up. Pull the front ribs in. You can keep the hands at your hips or together in prayer at the heart. For more challenge, you can extend them into a T position either with the palms face down or palms facing forward. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • Keep your muscles active!

  • Strong core

  • Feel yourself rooting down as you simultaneously rise up

  • note: This pose is typically done with all 10 toes facing forward, but you can experiment with turning the toes out 45 degrees and see which one feels better for you

YOU CAN ALSO FIND THIS POSE IN THIS YOGA CLASS.

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CHAIR VARIATION

For the chair variation of this pose, sit at the edge of the seat with your feet flat on the floor. Take the knees wide and press firmly into the feet. The ankles should be directly below the knees. Pull the navel in toward your spine. Sit up tall. Keep the hands on your hips, together at prayer or extend the arms into T position. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.

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SEATED VARIATION

Come into sukhasana and take the arms wide to focus on upper body strengthening. This is great if you have balance issues or joint pain in the lower body. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.

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SUPINE VARIATION

Lie flat on your back with the shoulders in line with your hips. Extend the legs and take the feet wide. Flex the feet and activate the legs. Take the arms into T position with the palms facing up. Spread the finger tips. Hold for 10 deep breaths. Then relax the muscles. You can rest here as an alternative to savasana if you’d like. It can feel very empowering to let your body soread out and take up space.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

MARJARYASANA/BITILASANA VINYASA: CAT/COW STRETCHES

Cat/cow stretches are a beautiful way to warm up your body before you practice deeper yoga stretches or active poses. Cat/cow stretches are made up of marjaryasana and bitilasana, and they are considered a vinyasa because we are linking our movement with our breath as we flow between these two poses.

BENEFITS OF CAT/COW:

  • creates length in the spine

  • relieves tension

  • strengthens the core muscles

  • massages internal organs

  • improves digestion

  • improves posture

Press play on the video below for three cat/cow variations.

YOU CAN ALSO FIND CAT/COW IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

CLICK HERE FOR TABLETOP POSE PROP IDEAS.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • always engage your core muscles on the exhale to propel the movement

  • focus on length and spaciousness - not how extreme your range of motion is

  • evenly arch through the entire spine in cow pose

  • think about being an evenly rounded rainbow in cat pose

  • keep your neck long

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

BAKASANA: CROW POSE

Arm balances can seem really impressive and intimidating and impossible. But I would encourage you to give this pose a try! Crow pose was the first arm balance I learned as a yogi, and I think like me, you will surprise yourself with your own strength. You won't know what you're capable of unless you try. Even if you're not ready for an unsupported variation, one of these modification ideas can give you the same benefits!

Benefits of Crow Pose:

  • strengthens the whole body
  • targets the core muscles especially
  • improves balance
  • boosts confidence and promotes self-trust
  • promotes mental focus 
  • improves hip strength and flexibility

I would recommend warming up before you practice this pose. Some hip opening poses like Pigeon Pose and Garland Pose would be great choices. If you're practicing any of the variations that place weight on the hands, I would also recommend doing this practice to warm up your hands/wrists. 

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Start by coming into a squat on your tip toes with the big toes touching. Take the knees wide.

Place the hands flat on the floor, about shoulder width apart. Fan your fingers and press firmly into all ten fingers. The fleshy part of the hand between the index finger and thumb should also be pressing into the mat. The center of the palm is lifted. This focus on hand positioning will help to protect your wrists.

Snuggle the knees as close as you can get them into your armpits. The knees will be resting on the backs of your arms. Lift the hips up in the air and lean forward so that your weight shifts onto your hands. Engage your core. Pull the belly button in toward your spine. You will feel the back body round, and this is good. This is what is going to give you the lift you need.

When you're ready, lift one foot off the floor. See how that feels. Then lift the other foot. The big toes should be touching. 

This pose does require arm strength, but it also requires core strength and hip strength to hold the shape. I have seen people on Instagram doing crow pose challenges where they're timing how long they can hold it. But honestly, if you can only hold this pose for a couple seconds, that's great! I can only hold it for a few seconds myself. Because of this, I usually will do repetitions. So I'll rest for a couple breaths in between each attempt. This allows me to build strength at my own pace. Honor your body. Whatever you are capable of doing is worth doing.

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ADDING PROPS: BLOCKS UNDER THE FEET

Adding blocks will allow you to put more weight on your hands and create the shape of crow pose without actually lifting your feet. So this is going to help you feel more stable while still building strength. You can practice holding this variation for up to one minutes or you can practice doing repetitions of shorter holds.

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SEATED VARIATION ON BLOCKS

This variation is similar to Navasana (Boat Pose). To practice it, sit down on top of a yoga block. Extend your arms in front of you with the hands flexed. Engage the core muscles and pull the knees up toward the armpits. You can keep the toes resting on the floor, or if you'd like more challenge, you can lift the feet off the floor. Hold for up to one minute, or practice doing repetitions or shorter holds.

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CHAIR VARIATION WITH BLOCKS

For this variation, you will sit at the center of your chair so that when you lean into crow pose, you don't tip forward and fall on your face. In your seated position, take the knees wide. Then lean forward so that the knees are snuggling up toward the armpits. The hands are going to come onto blocks, about shoulder-width apart, adjusting the height of the blocks as needed. Press into the palms of the hands. Engage the core muscles and round through your back body. Bring the big toes together and lift the feet. Don't be fooled! This pose is challenging, even when done in a chair! Practice holding this pose for up to one minute, or practice doing repetitions.

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SUPINE VARIATION

This variation is my current favorite! In this variation you get to really focus on your hips and core. You're strengthening your core and teaching your body what it feels like to make the shape without worrying about falling. If you've never done crow pose before, I'd recommend starting here.

To practice this variation, lie on your back. Extend the arms straight up toward the ceiling like you're trying to push the ceiling away with your palms. Then engage your core muscles and bend your knees up toward your armpits. Lift your head. Get round in your spine. Feel the belly button pull in toward your spine. Hold the pose for 5-10 deep breaths or longer, depending on your comfort.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

BHARMANASANA: TABLETOP POSE

Tabletop pose is a foundational pose that we work with fairly often in asana practices. We use it as our base for cat/cow stretches, and it can be used as an alternative for downward-facing dog in a vinyasa (flow) practice. Although it is a common pose, that doesn't mean it is easy! I know many yogis struggle to get comfortable in this pose, so today I'm going to show you a few ways to modify it to fit your body's needs. All of these variations come with the same benefits:

  • building upper body strength
  • building core strength
  • building strength in the wrists and hands
  • improving posture
  • improves proprioception (awareness of body in space)
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

For the traditional variation of this pose, come down onto your hands and knees. The hips are stacked over your knees. You can point or flex the toes, whichever you prefer. The shoulders are stacked directly over the wrists. All ten fingers are fanned out so that you're pressing evenly into all ten fingertips. The fleshy part of the hand between the index finger and the thumb is pressing into the mat. The center of the hand is lifted off the mat like a suction cup. This activation of the hands is going to protect your wrists in this pose. 

Engage your core muscles to keep the back flat. The gaze is just past your fingertips, keeping your neck straight so that it is an extension of your spine. 

Hold this pose for five to ten breaths or longer if you'd like to challenge yourself.

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VARIATION: TAKING A WIDE STANCE

If you'd like, you can give yourself more space to explore in this pose. Take the hands beyond the shoulders, maybe take them as wide as the mat. You can do the same with your knees. This can make it feel a bit easier on the wrists, but it does challenge the shoulders a bit more. Give it a try and see if it feels good for you!

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VARIATION: COMING ONTO THE FISTS

If you have sensitive wrists, coming up onto your fists will take the bend out of your wrists, which can help to alleviate pain here. This can feel a bit odd for your knuckles though, so again, give it a try and just see if it feels right for your body.

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VARIATION: ADDING BLOCKS 

Adding blocks under the hands shifts the weight back onto the knees a bit, so this may be a good option for you if you are just beginning to build upper body strength or if you have sensitive wrists and/or shoulders. 

VARIATION: STANDING WITH A CHAIR

This option can be helpful if getting down to the floor isn’t an option for you or if you have sensitive knees or knee injury. The same idea of stacking the shoulders over wrists and hips over knees applies. You can rest the hands on top of the seat and fan the fingers or you can grip the edges of the seat like I have done here.

 

VARIATION: ADDING A FOLDED BLANKET UNDER THE KNEES

Giving yourself extra padding on your knees can help to reduce pain. Remember that you can combine any of these variations to optimize your personal comfort.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

UTTIHITA CHATURANGA DANDASANA: PLANK POSE

Plank pose can be a very physically demanding pose, one that we may be tempted to avoid if we have chronic pain or chronic illness symptoms. But there are ways we can modify it to make it more comfortable and less demanding, so that we can find the version of the pose that challenges us without completely exhausting ourselves. We don't want to miss out on the benefits of this pose! If you have sensitive wrists, these modifications will help you too.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

For the traditional expression of this pose, we'll start in table top pose. This way we can set up the arms first and then bring in the legs. The shoulders should be stacked directly over your wrists. Externally rotate the shoulders so that the inside creases of the elbows are facing the front of the mat. Keep a micro-bend in the elbows to prevent locking or hyperextension. Press firmly into all ten fingertips. Lengthen the tailbone and engage the core muscles. Finally, extend the legs back, coming onto the toes. Hold for as long as possible. 5-10 breaths is a great goal to start with. When you are finished, take rest in child's pose so your body can recuperate.

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MODIFICATION #1: PLANK POSE ON FISTS

Instead of practicing plank pose with the hands flat, make fists and come onto the knuckles. Otherwise, your alignment will be the same. Practicing this way keeps the wrists straight and may help relieve wrist pain.

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MODIFICATION #2: FOREARM PLANK

This variation may also help those with sensitive wrists, but it can be more demanding on the shoulders. Begin in tabletop pose, then come down onto the forearms with the shoulders aligned over the elbows. Elbows are bent at a 90 degree angle. Lengthen the tailbone, engage the core muscles. When you are ready, extend the legs behind you and come onto the toes. 

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MODIFICATION #3: HALF PLANK

Again, you'll start in tabletop pose with the knees together. Walk the hands forward slightly, then drop the hips to engage the core muscles. The toes can be pointed or you can come onto the toes, whichever feels more comfortable.

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MODIFICATION #4: PLANK AT THE WALL

This variation places significantly less weight on the arms and hands. Face the wall and place the palms against the wall shoulder width apart and at shoulder height. Walk the feet back a bit and come onto the toes so that you're leaning into the wall. This will help you to build strength. 

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress!